The importance of today’s DOJ policy announcement on Washington and Colorado’s marijuana regulations is hard to measure. On one hand, much of what is now stated policy is what we already assumed the DOJ position to be as they remained silent on the topic for so long. If they were planning to sue, they’d have done it already and certainly not given Washington and Colorado to green light to start spending money implementing it.
On the other hand, as Mike Riggs pointed out here, the language about not targeting operations solely because they are large in size is a welcome departure from how US Attorney’s have operated in recent years regarding medical marijuana businesses.
What remains to be seen is whether marijuana businesses in Washington and Colorado will have access to banking services. Inslee indicated that he’d gotten assurances from Holder that the problem will be addressed, but the policy memo was silent on it.
On a larger scale, this announcement makes it very clear to other states and other countries that the U.S. government is not interested in fully backing the federal and international prohibitions on marijuana. It’s a clear signal that the option of moving away from prohibition to a smarter model is a political reality now. And the Obama Administration deserves credit for recognizing the pragmatic response, even though they needed a lot of pushing to get there (that seems to be how they operate on these issues).
Also check out Mark Kleiman’s post here with a roundup of good points.
UPDATE: Looks like the banking services issue is being addressed. That’s a very positive development.